In The Way of the Heart, Henri Nouwen explains contemplative prayer: “The quiet repetition of a single word can help us descend with the mind into the heart. …a word or sentence repeated frequently can help us to concentrate, to move to the center, to create an inner stillness and thus listen to the voice of God” (pg.81).
But Henri Nouwen was not hearing the “voice of God.” Contemplative prayer is essentially the same as Eastern or New Age meditation, and will take you into sweet deception. It will alter or addle your theology.
It is wrong to promote a practitioner of contemplative prayer. Henri Nouwen’s particular universalist understanding of God is the result of his contemplative practices; and yet his books continue to be recommended by seminaries and celebrity Christians alike.
Francis Chan and Mike Bickle, for instance, speaking before thousands, asked the audience to vow not to read any of Chan’s or Bickle’s books until they had first read Nouwen’s The Way of the Heart (IHOP-KC’s Onething Conference, 2018).
Let’s examine what the Bible teaches, followed by the theology of Henri Nouwen. Concerning salvation and the exclusivity of Christ,the Bible states: “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that is given among men by which we must be saved (Acts:4:12). “Jesus said to him, ‘“I am the way, and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me’” (John:14:6)/
But Henri Nouwen stated: “I, therefore, believe that all human beings are embraced by God’s love and are called to enjoy the fruits of God’s redemption. For me, this implies two very important things. First of all,that nobody, whether Buddhist, Christian, or Muslim is automatically excluded from the saving work of Jesus” (Love,Henri, pg.163).
Henri Nouwen also stated: “I also want to say that it is important that we realize the presence of God’s Spirit, ‘who blows where he wants’ in Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and the faith of the Moslems. I am deeply convinced that Jesus is completely unique in the world as the full revelation of God’s life, but I also believe that many people can come to Christ even when they have never formally known Christ or had the opportunity to accept him” (Love Henri, pg.303).
Why did Chan and Bickle encourage thousands and thousands of mostly young Christians to get Nouwen’s book, The Way of the Heart? Maybe Chan and Bickle weren’t aware of Nouwen’s universalism.That’s possible, even if this fact has been on the internet for some time now.
However, both had to know that Nouwen was a contemplative.That wouldn’t bother Bickle – he’s been practicing and promoting contemplative prayer for decades. That, in fact, is precisely why he was encouraging the audience to get the book.
What about Francis Chan?